The threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is still very real, especially to the Soldiers who travel the roads of Iraq and conduct dismounted patrols in its neighborhoods. Improvements in tactics and technology and operations to capture or kill bomb makers and emplacers have diminished the threat, but safeguarding Soldiers and civilians from IEDs is still a vital part of the Task Force Mountain mission.
Multi-National Division–Center (MNC–C) coordinates several teams focused on neutralizing the threat from IEDs. Capt. Richard Turvey, operations and targeting officer of the IED-defeat cell, manages and supports these teams from his location at MND–C headquarters at Camp Victory, Baghdad.
“We provide the capability to go up above division level to corps, or even all the way back to the States to get questions answered,” said Turvey, of Three Rivers, Mich.
“We provide training for how to react to IEDs, provide counter-IED training – how to spot them (tactics, techniques, and procedures [TTP]). If we see a new trend, say there’s a new trend going on up north, we push that information to the guys in our area and hopefully… we can come up with a way to react to it that can become a new TTP, a new standard,” he said.
The threat of IEDs is gradually decreasing overall in Iraq, but it’s also changing, said Turvey. “Compared to last year, we’ve been lucky here in MND–Center. [IED attacks] have been down over the past couple of weeks, about 30 percent versus the previous 90 days, and if you look at the numbers from last year, it’s a significant decrease. I’m not going to say there is no threat, but it’s getting less.”
“We’ve been finding a lot of caches; we’ve gotten better at detecting IEDs, but as we get better, they get better. Just as soon as we think we’ve got something beat, they change one of their TTPs or they get somebody back, or someone all of the sudden comes in that’s a very well-trained bomb maker or bomb emplacer,” he said.
BUT NEW TRICKS EMERGE
Recent emerging trends include magnetic IEDs attached to vehicles and “flashlight” IEDs – ordinary flashlights filled with explosive and connected to a trip wire, needing only to be picked up to detonate. There is also the continuing threat of deep-buried IEDs, some placed months or years ago.
The targets of IED attacks are also changing. Coalition soldiers used to be the main targets; now, Iraqi security forces (ISF) and government leaders are becoming targets of criminal and extremist groups. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is less active in the MND–C area of operations, but other extremist groups in the area have shown the will to use IEDs.
To help the ISF combat these threats, the IED-defeat cell is helping combat brigades train local Iraqi army and Iraqi police forces. In Babil province, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division operates Lion Claw Academy, using the newest tactics and technology to train route clearance and IED defeat. In addition to explosive ordnance disposal robots, the MND–C IED-defeat cell helps by coordinating the use of bomb-detection dogs.
SENDING THE GEAR
A similar training course is conducted in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) area of operations as well. New machines and techniques emerge, and the IED-defeat cell ensures the brigades get the tools they need.
“That’s kind of what I see our role being, the longer we’re here and the more partnering we do,” said Turvey. “We are going to provide more training resources and oversight to what the brigades are doing.”
Brigades often have as few as one or two Soldiers dedicated to IED-defeat; MND–C has 28 personnel focused on the task and ready to support them.
“RED HASH” ALERTS FROM CSI: BAGHDAD
The IED-defeat cell also gets support from other agencies to perform its mission. Task Force (TF) Troy provides counter-IED training for Soldiers, and civilian contractors in the Division Support Team provide valuable expertise on ways to detect and destroy devices. Both TF Mountain and the TF Troy issue “Red Hash” reports to alert units to emerging enemy tactics.
TF Mountain even employs law enforcement professionals to perform sensitive site analysis, similar to police forensics, which helps both coalition and IA soldiers use legal means to prosecute terrorists.
“They are ‘CSI Baghdad,’ basically,” said Turvey.
A MORPHING MISSION
Turvey said that as TF Mountain’s mission continues to change, so will his team’s. “It’s actually kind of a morphing mission,” he said. “When we first got here, we assumed our role was going to be to target networks of IED manufacturers and emplacers, but as we’re here longer … the role of our cell changes, because we can work with different civilian agencies that work for us, partnering with the IA or the IP, providing instruction in different areas.”
“We’re just a conduit to these other organizations,” said Turvey. “We’re kind of like [the brigades’] action arm up here. If we can’t provide any assistance, then we’re really of no use to them. We don’t want to just be up here gathering data.”